Snippet – The Halls of Montezuma (The Empire’s Corps 18)

2 Sep

Prologue I

From: The Dying Days: The Death of the Old Order and the Birth of the New.  Professor Leo Caesius.  Avalon.  206PE.

In hindsight, we should have expected more organised competition.

As we saw in previous volumes, the Terrain Marine Corps saw Earthfall coming and took steps to preserve themselves and – hopefully – rebuild the Empire they’d sworn to serve.   Small groups of marines were assigned to isolated worlds at the edge of explored space – including Avalon, a story explored in my earlier volumes – with a mandate to protect and preserve what remnants of civilisation they could.  Others were withdrawn from more populated – and inevitably doomed – worlds to await the final end.  And, when Earthfall finally came – somehow catching us all by surprise despite years of planning and preparations – the corps started liberating and recruiting the trained and experienced workers who would assist the marines to preserve civilisation.

All of this did not take place in a vacuum.  Earthfall led to utter chaos, to wave after wave of destruction sweeping across the Core Worlds.  Planetary governors seized power, only to be consumed by the chaos as uncounted billions were swept out of work and unemployment benefits came to a sudden end.  Imperial Navy officers declared themselves warlords and started building empires of their own, most falling prey to ambitious subordinates or supply shortages within a very short space of time.  Old grudges burst into flame, unleashing a cycle of attacks and revenge attacks that ended with entire planetary systems burning to ashes.  We do not know how many people died in the first few months.  It remains beyond calculation.

It was during a recruitment mission, as detailed in the prior volume, that the marines discovered they had a major rival.  The Onge Corporation, previously ruled by Grand Senator Stephen Onge (who died during Earthfall), had established a major base on an isolated world, Hameau.  This alone would be concerning, but further investigation revealed that Hameau was a corporate paradise, a seemingly-ordered world held in stasis by a combination of extreme surveillance and a cold-blooded willingness to remove and terminate troublemakers before they became a serious threat.  It was clear, to the marines, that Hameau represented the future … as seen by the Onge Family.  The upper classes would have considerable freedom, while the lower classes would be trapped within a social system that would keep them from either rising or rebelling.  If this wasn’t bad enough, the sociologists believed the long-term result would be utterly disastrous.  Hameau would either stagnate to the point it entered a steep decline – not unknown, amongst worlds that refused to permit a degree of social mobility – or eventually be destroyed by a brutal and uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) uprising. 

The marines therefore decided to intervene.  Landing troops on the surface – the planetary defences were strong enough to keep the starships from securing the high orbitals and demanding surrender – the marines carried out a brilliant campaign that ended with the capture of the capital city, the effective destruction of the planetary government and them being firmly in control.  Everything seemed to have gone their way until the enemy reinforcements arrived, too late to save the world … but quickly enough, perhaps, to destroy the marines.

There was no hope of negotiation.  The new arrivals rapidly landed troops themselves, trying to destroy the marines on the ground while skirmishing with starships throughout the solar system.  The marines, unable to retreat and unwilling to surrender, continued the fight, aided by elements of the local population that didn’t want a return to the days of corporate control (or had compromised themselves to the point they couldn’t hope for mercy from their former allies).  The fighting continued for weeks, with severe effects on the local population and infrastructure, until the marines lured the enemy forces into a trap and smashed them in a single decisive blow.

However, it was not the end of the war.  How could it be.  The Onge were now aware of the Marine Corps, just as the Corps was aware of the Onge.  With – still – little hope of a peaceful settlement, the two factions girded themselves to continue the war …

… All too aware that whoever won would determine the fate of the galaxy.

Prologue II

Onge (Inconnu), Shortly After The Invasion of Hameau

“Invasion fleets do not come out of nowhere,” Director Thaddeus Onge said.  He clasped his hands behind his back as he stared out of the window overlooking the gardens of paradise themselves.  “Where did this one come from?”

He turned, keeping his face carefully blank.  The original reports had been unbelievable.  Hameau had been safe.  Should have been safe.  The only force that could have challenged the planet’s defences was the Imperial Navy and the Navy was a fracturing ruin, torn apart by admirals and generals who’d declared themselves warlords and set out to snatch as much military power as they could.  Thaddeus had been confident, as the reports continued to flow in from what remained of the Core Worlds, that it was just a matter of time before the last embers of empire faded and died.  There’d be room for a whole new order when the dust settled, he’d been assured.  This time, the right people would be in charge.

His eyes drifted across the table.  The right people hadn’t been in charge for generations.  The Grand Senate had been dominated by a hereditary aristocracy that had lost track of what was important centuries ago.  They’d been too stupid and inbred to know the truth, that he who paid the piper called the tune.  They’d lashed out at giant corporations, all the while sucking up to them for donations.  Bribes, in truth, except they lacked the fundamental trait of the honest politician.  They didn’t stay bought.  Thaddeus’s family had worked its way into the elite for decades, only to discover the empire was already a rotting corpse.  They hadn’t needed long to start planning for the future.

Thaddeus looked at Vice Director Hayden James McManus, Director of Corporate Security.  “I ask again,” he said.  “Where did this invasion fleet come from?”

“The preliminary reports indicate the fleet belongs to the Marine Corps,” McManus said.  He sounded as if he didn’t believe his own words.  “The naval records we obtained suggest the fleet does not exist.”

“Officially, this planet does not exist,” Thaddeus said, waving a hand towards the window and the gardens beyond.  “Not as a corporate headquarters and haven for a new order, certainly.  The marines probably have as much experience as we do in keeping things off the books.”

He sighed, inwardly.  The corporation had spent decades building the planet into a citadel, all the while doing everything in their power to ensure the Grand Senate and the Imperial Navy never had the faintest idea it existed.  The looters would start levelling taxes the moment they worked out something was up, he’d been warned.  They couldn’t let the bastards know what was happening until it was too late to object.  They’d known Earthfall was coming …

… And yet it had taken them by surprise.

“And they invaded the planet,” Thaddeus said.  “Why?”

“We don’t know,” McManus said.  “But they must have had a sniff of our activities.”

“More than just a sniff, if they’re launching a full-scale planetary invasion,” Vice Director Maryanne Mayan said, sardonically.  “The cost alone must be immense.”

“Yes,” McManus agreed.  He looked at Thaddeus.  “If we predicted Earthfall, sir, they must have predicted it too.  They must have had their own plan to take advantage of the crisis.”

“It isn’t a crisis,” Thaddeus said.  “It’s the new reality.”

He let out a breath.  The corporation had laid it’s plans carefully, yet they’d been overtaken by the sheer violence of events.  Grand Senator Onge, Thaddeus’s father and mentor, had never made it off Earth.  Rumour insisted he’d tried to seize power, only to be killed by … by someone, depending who was telling the story.  The Solar System was a burned-out ruin, hundreds of worlds had fallen into civil war or outright anarchy … the scale of the disaster was beyond human imagination.  Thaddeus knew the plan.  He’d grown up knowing the plan.  He knew he had to collect useful people, bring them to his small cluster of worlds and wait.  He had a nasty feeling the plan had gone spectacularly wrong.

The Corps was always loyal to the Emperor before the Grand Senate, he thought.  The corporation had subverted thousands of army and navy officers, but not a single active-duty marine.  What the hell are they doing?

“Our plan was always to shape the new reality,” Maryanne pointed out.  “Doubtless, the marines have the same idea.”

Thaddeus couldn’t disagree.  There was no hope of putting the empire back together.  The networks of interstellar trade that had once bound thousands of stars into a single entity were smashed beyond repair.  The supply chain was a joke, money was worthless … outside a handful of worlds that had managed to maintain a certain independence from the empire itself.  The marines weren’t fools.  They wouldn’t have attacked and invaded an entire planet for nothing.  No, they had to have their own plans for the post-empire universe.  Thaddeus wondered, sourly, what those plans might be.  He couldn’t imagine them being compatible with his own.

“There’s no point in disputing the facts,” he said.  His father had delighted in pointing out that the Grand Senate had often disputed the facts, right up until the moment they could dispute them no longer.  “We have to take action.  Fast.  General?”

“I’m already putting together a response,” General Jim Gilbert said.  He was corporate royalty, but he’d served in a dozen engagements in the army before returning to the corporation and, eventually, taking control of its military.  “Many of our ships are on recruitment, but we have a small task force that should be able to drive the marines away from the planet and land troops.  If we get there in time, we should be able to reinforce the defences and crush the invaders.  If not, we can boot the invaders off the planet the hard way.”

“Doing immense damage to the planet’s industry and population,” Vice Director Vincent Adamson said.  The Director of Human Resources didn’t look pleased.  “They’re not going to thank us for turning the entire planet into a battleground.”

“With all due respect, sir, the entire planet is already a battleground,” Gilbert countered, bluntly.  He’d always been plain-spoken, something that had kept him out of the very highest levels.  “We have a choice between retaking the planet, whatever the cost, or abandoning it to the enemy.  And it won’t take them long to realise they’ve merely stumbled on the tip of the iceberg.”

Thaddeus nodded.  Hameau was a major investment, and one they’d worked hard to conceal, but it was hardly the only one.  The marines would find references to Onge in the planetary datafiles … if, of course, they hadn’t already deduced its existence.  And then … Thaddeus shook his head.  He couldn’t allow the marines, of all people, to determine the future of the human race.  Their idealism would lead, inevitably, to the wrong people taking power once again, dooming the post-empire universe to yet another series of crashes and disasters.  No, they had to be stopped.  They were committed.  They’d been committed from the moment the marines had first landed on Hameau.

And they don’t know what sort of hornet’s nest they’ve stumbled into, he told himself, firmly.  It was impossible to believe the marines knew the truth, if only because they would have invaded Onge rather than Hameau.  We have a chance to smash them before they recover from the shock.

He looked at Gilbert.  “Are we safe here?”

“It’s impossible to be sure, sir,” Gilbert said.  “But our defences are formidable.  We’ve been bringing newer and better weapons online since Earthfall, when we no longer needed to hide anything from prying eyes.  We’ve also sent out courier boats, recalling the remaining starships from their missions.  And, with your permission, I’ll call out the militia as well.”

“Which will be expensive,” Adamson said.

“And the militia may not be entirely trustworthy,” Maryanne added.

Thaddeus nodded, sourly.  One couldn’t give the common man any power, at least not until he proved himself … and all political power, at base, came out of the barrel of a gun.  Too many planets had been ruined by politicians who pandered to the masses, or cowered in front of mobs, for him to be sanguine about calling out the militia.   Even if they were trustworthy, even if they could be kept under control, they’d be taking experienced men away from their jobs.  The economy would take a tumble.

“We have no choice,” he said.  Hameau had been intended as a military incubator.  That plan, like so many others, had crashed and burnt in the wake of the invasion.  “We have to move, now, to regain control of events.”

“And quickly,” Gilbert said.  “The Corps trains its people to maintain a high operational tempo at all times.”

Adamson scowled.  “And in plain English …?”

“They move fast, trying to keep the enemy off balance long enough for them to come out ahead.”  Gilbert smiled, humourlessly.  “We’re the enemy, in case you were wondering.”

“They picked this fight,” Thaddeus said, before an argument could start.  “And we’re going to end it.”

“Yes, sir,” Gilbert said.  “The task force should be ready to depart within the week.”

Thaddeus nodded.  If they were lucky, it was not already too late …

Chapter One

What went so badly wrong, when it came to interstellar capitalism and the eventual – inevitable – slide into anarchy?

– Professor Leo Caesius.  The Rise and Fall of Interstellar Capitalism.

“Aren’t we done with this fucking planet?”

Captain Haydn Steel hid his amusement at the subvocalised comment as he inched his way through the industrial complex, making sure to keep himself out of sight.  The district had been battered by repeated bouts of fighting, from the thunder runs that had put the marines in charge of Haverford to the corprat invasion that had driven the marines back out again and the local insurgency that had torn the city apart until the fighting finally came to an end.  The latest government had, thankfully, managed to evacuate the refugees to a makeshift camp outside the city, in hopes of bringing the district back to life.  Haydn had to give them points for trying, if nothing else.  They were showing more initiative than the average planetary government.

“I thought we were really done,” Rifleman Jeff Culver said.  “What are we doing here?”

“Sniper hunting,” Command Sergeant Mark Mayberry growled.  “Or weren’t you paying attention at the briefing?”

Haydn ignored the byplay as he scanned the surrounding streets and buildings.  An enemy sniper, perhaps more than one, had opened fire on a pair of surveyors an hour ago, killing one and wounding the other.  The marines had been ordered to find the snipers and catch them – or kill them – before the area could be reopened.  Haydn feared, as the marines moved from shadow to shadow, that they’d have to kill the men.  The vast majority of the enemy soldiers had surrendered, when they’d been promised amnesty.  Those who remained active were either loyalists or war criminals.  Or simply convinced they wouldn’t be allowed to surrender.  It wasn’t uncommon for snipers to be killed out of hand. 

Sweat prickled on his forehead as he peered towards the nearest skyscraper.  It looked dangerously unsafe.  A missile or shell or something had smashed through the building without detonating, smashing a chunk of the concrete and probably damaging the frame.  The windows were shattered, pieces of glass littering the ground beneath his feet.  It would be the perfect place for a sniper to hide.  Haydn had seen snipers hit targets over five kilometres away.  The skyscraper would let the bastard shoot right across the river and into the heart of the city.  Haydn feared what would happen if the bastard started taking pot shots at random civilians …

Most of the poor bastards don’t want to come out of their houses, he thought.  And who can possibly blame them.

He keyed his throatmike, muttering an update to the distant controllers.  There weren’t many marines on the ground, not now.  The former insurgents were trying to maintain order – the new government needed to try to stamp its authority on the planet – but they were neither armed nor trained for crowd control.  It would be a long time, with the best will in the world, before the planet calmed down to the point everyone could relax.  Haydn wished he could call on the rest of the company, if not the entire regiment.  A few thousand marines would be more than enough to flood the entire area and flush out the sniper.

And our snipers are keeping a watch for him, he thought, as he held out his hand to count down the seconds.  They’ll shoot if they catch a glimpse of him.

He cursed under his breath as he slipped out of the shadows and ran across the road.  The marine snipers were good, terrifyingly good – they bragged they could castrate a man with a single shot – but they couldn’t fire unless they had positive identification of the target.  Merely carrying a gun wasn’t enough.  They had to wait until the sniper took aim before they put a bullet in his head.  Haydn understood the political requirements – the local government couldn’t afford to look weak, as if it was allowing the marines to shoot civilians at random – but he wished that whoever had come up with the policy was the one on the front lines.  It was a great deal easier to issue blanket ROE when one wasn’t at risk of being shot.

Glass crunched under his boots as he reached the edge of the lobby and crashed inside, rifle swinging from side to side as he searched for targets.  Nothing moved, not even a mouse.  The signs of looting were all around him.  Paintings had been yanked from walls, drawers pulled out of the receptionist’s desk and dumped on the floor … their contents stolen and probably sold for scraps.  There were no papers … Haydn guessed the office had been completely paperless.  Or the papers had been used for fires.  The locals had had a nice city once.  Two successive invasions and an ongoing insurgency had ruined it.

Probably taught them a few bad habits too, he thought, as the rest of the squad joined him.   How long will it be before they start settling disputes with violence?

He put the thought out of his mind as they finished sweeping the ground floor, then sealed the lifts and headed upstairs.  There was no power, not any longer.  They’d been few, if any, independent power generators on the planet, rendering the entire district largely powerless.  A faint smell hung in the air as they reached the first floor and peered inside.  The office looked looted, stripped of everything that wasn’t nailed to the floor.  Haydn felt a flicker of sympathy for the workers as he swept the chamber, noticing how they didn’t have so much as the illusion of privacy.  Or any real control over their lives.  They couldn’t so much as adjust their desks and chairs.  It struck him as cruel and unusual punishment.  He was in the military and even he knew that complete uniformity was a bad idea.  He’d hate to have to wear BDUs designed for someone smaller than himself.

I suppose it bred good little corprats, he told himself.  The office kitchenette was as bland and boring as the rest of the office.  The powerless freezer stank of rotting food.  He was amused to notice the looters had taken the cleaning supplies, although he knew it wasn’t really funny.  Someone could make a pretty good IED, with a little ingenuity.  And it sure as hell would have kept them in their place.

He tensed as he heard something above him.  A footstep?  A bird?  He hadn’t seen many birds in the city, but urban wildlife might well have started making a comeback now large swathes of the city had been effectively abandoned.  Haydn exchanged signals with Mayberry, then inched towards the stairs.  By his assessment, they were going to be moving up to the damaged part of the building.  The skyscraper didn’t feel as though it was going to collapse at any moment, but the shattered walls and damaged interior would make a good sniper nest.  If nothing else, it would be very hard to pick their way upwards without making some noise.

Haydn considered his options as they studied the stairwell, then started to inch up to the next floor.  The air blew colder, carrying with it the unmistakable scent of unwashed human and human waste.  It didn’t smell like a dead body … Haydn grimaced.  They hadn’t seen many dead bodies since they’d begun their sweep, although he wasn’t sure why.  Perhaps the corprats had collected the corpses and buried them in a mass grave.  It was the sort of thing they would have done, if they’d realised it had to be done.  His lips quirked.  Of course they’d do it.  They’d wanted to bring the city back to life as quickly as possible too.

The sound came again as they reached the top of the stairs.  Rubble lay everywhere, providing all the cover a sniper could possibly want.  Haydn could imagine a skilled sniper setting up a bunch of nests, perhaps even an optical sensor to allow him to track his targets without a spotter … or revealing himself to prying eyes.  There might even be an automated gun … the corps didn’t use them, unless they were in a clear war zone, but the corprats might have different ideas.  Who knew?  The sniper probably already considered himself doomed.

He unhooked a stun grenade from his belt, held it up so his team could see what he had in mind, then hurled it through the door and into the exposed zone.  Blue-white light flared.  The grenades weren’t as effective as the media made them look – Haydn wanted a few moments alone with the producers who made those wretched flicks – but anyone caught in the blast would have a few moments of stunned disorientation, at the very least.  He leapt forward, rifle in hand.  The section was deserted.  There was no sign of a sniper or …

Something moved, above him.  Haydn barely had a moment to notice before another grenade fell from the upper floor.  Haydn shouted a warning and dived for cover, an instant before the grenade exploded.  The floor shook violently.  Haydn breathed a sigh of relief they weren’t in a confined space, then scrambled forward and up the next flight of stairs.  The sniper had to be stopped before he got away.  He heard someone snap off a shot behind him, the bullet cracking through the ceiling.  He couldn’t tell who’d fired, or if they’d hit anything.  Another explosion shook the building a second later.  Haydn felt a flicker of fear.  It was hard to escape the sense the entire building might come tumbling down within seconds.

He crashed into a dark shape.  The sniper bit out a curse as they tumbled to the floor, fists pounding against Haydn’s armour.  Haydn headbutted him, feeling his nose break under the force of the impact.  The sniper had clearly been enhanced, probably illegally.  He almost snorted as the sniper kept hitting him, trying to beat him to death.  The corprats had broken hundreds of laws, just by setting up a colony that was technically off the books.  Why on Earth would they stop breaking laws now?

His fingers found the knife at his belt, drew it and stabbed upwards.  The sniper was wearing body armour too, but it wasn’t designed to cope with knives.  Haydn guessed the sniper’s masters had seen the advantages – the armour was very good at coping with bullets – and chosen to overlook the disadvantages.  The sniper let out a breath as the knife was thrust further into his chest, flailing uselessly as he gasped for breath.  Haydn pushed him over and stared down at him.  The sniper looked … no different from any of the other soldiers he’d fought and killed in the last few months.

“Lie still,” Haydn said, quietly.  If he could take the sniper alive … the spooks would have a field day.  The poor bugger was clearly enhanced to the max.  “We can do something …”

The sniper gurgled, then lay still.  Haydn cursed under his breath as he checked the man’s pulse, just in case he was faking it.  Enhanced or not, a knife to the gut had proven fatal … it looked as though Haydn had punctured the man’s heart.  A team of medics with modern equipment might have been able to save him, but the closest medics were on the other side of the river.  Haydn pulled out the knife, wiped it with a cloth and returned it to his belt, then started to search the body.  The sniper hadn’t been carrying much.  It looked as though he’d abandoned everything that might have identified him, something else that was technically against the law.  Haydn was mildly surprised the corprats had broken that law.  Terrorists and insurgents did it all the time, but the corprat soldiers were supposed to be better.  They, at least, had superiors who could hold them accountable … and be held accountable, in turn, for their subordinates.

A shot cracked past him.  Haydn darted to one side, seeing another sniper standing by the far door.  He cursed and unhooked another grenade from his belt, hurling it towards the enemy soldier.  The soldier dived back, retreating further into the skyscraper.  Haydn called in the contact as he picked himself up and chased the man.  He wanted – he needed – to take this one alive.

“Give up,” he shouted, as he crashed through an open door.  The wooden shape hung off its hinges.  “Give up and we’ll take you alive!”

He jumped into the next room, just in time to see the enemy soldier diving down a garbage chute.  Haydn was tempted to follow him, but it would be a good way to get stuck.  The rest of the corps would never let him forget it.  Instead, he yanked a third stun grenade from his belt and dropped it down the chute.  The sniper might be armoured, but in such close confines it probably didn’t matter.  He heard a curse, followed by a thump.  It dawned on him, a moment too late, that the sniper had probably lost his grip and plunged down.  Hopefully, he’d had enough sense to make sure there was something soft underneath.

“Sergeant, check the rest of the building,” he ordered, as he ran back to the stairs.  The one advantage of a city designed by soulless corprats was that the city was practically uniform.  Learn to navigate around one skyscraper and you’d know how to navigate around all of them.  “I’m going to snatch the prisoner.”

He ran down the stairs and into the basement.  It stunk, a grim reminder that no one had been collecting trash for months.  He could hear someone kicking in the semi-darkness.  The garbage chute opened into a giant metal drum on wheels … Haydn had a sudden horrified vision of someone getting stuck inside, then being driven to the furnace and incinerated with no one being any the wiser.  He had no idea how the sniper intended to get out.  Perhaps he could tip it over from the inside, with a little effort, or scramble up the outside of the chute.

“Marine Corps,” he shouted.  If the sniper wanted to take a final shot at him, now was the chance.  “Surrender and we’ll get you medical attention.  Resist and you’ll go to the grave.”

He listened, but heard nothing beyond a faint whimpering.  He sneaked up on the drum, grabbed hold and yanked it over.  A torrent of rubbish – and a twitching sniper – fell out and landed on the concrete floor.  The sniper had clearly taken the brunt of the blast and fallen hard, breaking at least one of his legs.  Haydn secured his hands with a plastic tie, then searched him roughly.  Getting the sniper to the medics was going to be a pain, but it could be done.  He had no doubt of it.

“Sir, the building is clear,” Mayberry reported.  “There’s no trace of anyone else.”

Haydn nodded, unsurprised.  If there were more enemy holdouts, they’d have scattered over the city.  They wouldn’t run the risk of being trapped, not as a group.  Haydn wouldn’t hesitate to call down fire from the orbiting starships to smash the enemy, rather than risk the lives of his men trying to root them out and take them alive.  The corprats would certainly assume the worst, if they were wise.  There was no way the city could be brought back to life before the corprats were exterminated.

“I’ll meet you in the lobby,” he said.  “Tell the medics I have a patient for them.”

He searched the enemy sniper quickly, finding nothing.  Again.  The enemy had dumped everything, even his weapons.  Haydn guessed there was a cache of supplies somewhere not too far away.  The corprats hadn’t had much time to prepare for an insurgency – another insurgency – but a skilled junior officer with enough guts to take the lead might just lay the groundwork before it was too late.  And his superiors would probably take a dim view of it.  Corprats disliked people showing even a hint of independent thought …

And maybe I’m completely wrong, he thought, as he carefully picked up the twitching body and carried it up to the lobby.  Moving a wounded man was dangerous, but the medics wouldn’t come any further into the building.  The corpsmen were just too valuable to be put at risk.  These two might just have set off on their own.

“Raptor inbound, sir,” Mayberry reported.  “The medics will be here in a moment.”

“And then we can sweep the rest of the area,” Haydn said.  He cursed under his breath.  They needed the entire regiment, not a single understrength company.  He knew the score as well as anyone – they were short of trained marines – but it was worrying.  They were running the risk of being caught out by superior forces and taking a pounding.  “Any word through the grapevine on reinforcements?”

“Nothing, sir,” Mayberry said.  “There’s a vague report we might be heading back up there.”

“You’d think they could make up their minds,” Culver said, as he joined them.  “Where are we going tomorrow?”

“There’s never a dull day in the corps,” Haydn said.  He grinned.  “The only easy day was yesterday.  Who dares wins.  And a bunch of other clichés.”

Culver made a face.  “And no hope of shore leave?”

Haydn shrugged.  “I dare say they’ll try and organise something,” he said.  He hadn’t heard anything, but marine officers understood their men needed leave every so often.  Everyone needed time to decompress, preferably in an environment where no one was trying to kill them.  “But I have no idea when or where.”

“There has to be something to do here,” Culver said.  “Hunting.  Fishing.  Shooting …”

“Yeah,” Haydn said.  He understood the younger man’s feelings.  He just knew they had other problems.  “But our duty comes first.”

2 Responses to “Snippet – The Halls of Montezuma (The Empire’s Corps 18)”

  1. Kenneth Dick September 8, 2020 at 1:37 am #

    Any feel for when this will be available to pre-order/order on Amazon?

    • chrishanger September 24, 2020 at 9:09 am #

      I just finished the draft, so maybe a week or two.


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